In February, the Susquehanna University athletic communications department debuted a series of stories highlighting several of the university's student-athletes and their study abroad and/or international playing experiences. The GO (Global Opportunities) program at Susquehanna ensures that each student will have a meaningful cross-cultural experience abroad or in the U.S. during their four years at Susquehanna.
While it can be tricky to balance studying abroad and athletics, as you'll see in this series, Susquehanna's student-athletes are doing just that while still others are opting to extend that experience by returning abroad to play their respective sport.
The most recent story highlights senior men's basketball player Harley Sellinger and his trips abroad during the 2012-13 academic year.
What would it be like to leave something behind about which you're very passionate, spend a few months immersed in an entirely different culture and then come back and try to pick up where you left off? Oh, and repeat that process again six months later?
Susquehanna senior men's basketball player Harley Sellinger lived that life during his junior year at SU. He spent the 2012 fall semester studying abroad in Spain, re-joined his Susquehanna teammates midseason and then spent 10 days over the summer playing basketball in Italy.
All students at Susquehanna are guaranteed a cross-cultural experience so Sellinger's time abroad may not seem all that different from what other Susquehanna students experience. But, Sellinger is a critical member of the men's basketball team - and that may be an understatement. He was the 2010-11 Landmark Conference Rookie of the Year, a 2013-14 First-Team All-Conference Player and recently joined the elite, 1,000-point club at SU. Clearly Sellinger is incredibly talented on the basketball court, so what was it about the prospect of studying abroad for an entire semester - and missing half his junior season – that was so appealing?
"From the beginning I knew I wanted to go to Spain," he said. "There are sights that I got to see that many people will never see in their lifetimes. [College] is a time to explore the world. Now is the time to do something like that and it was the experience of a lifetime."
A Spanish major, Sellinger knew that academically, a full semester in Spain would do wonders in furthering his education so in the fall of 2012, he traveled to Spain for a four-month study abroad experience. He attended Universidad de Alicante, a university of 30,000 students from all corners of the world – Japan, Iraq and Russia, just to name a few. His courses ranged from Spanish language classes to a Spanish history course and even a Spanish gastronomy course. Admittedly tough work, but someone had to do it.
Sellinger, like all student-athletes at Susquehanna, has learned to masterfully balance academics, athletics and a social life. However, maintaining that balance is not easy and thus for student-athletes like Sellinger that take an entire semester away from the daily grind of their respective sport, it can be a welcome change in lifestyle.
"It was the best time of my life," he said. "For anybody that is hesitant to go for a longer time, my advice is just go for it. You can just get up and go and have very few things to worry about."
That's not to say, though, that basketball was a forgotten entity during his four months in Spain. Sellinger and his friends often played pick-up basketball and while he admits the competition may not have been to the level it is here at Susquehanna, it nonetheless gave him valuable time on a basketball court. He also joined an intramural team where his teammates, Sellinger said, "thought it was the best thing ever to have an American on their team."
Eventually Sellinger's semester abroad came to an end, though, and on Dec. 22 he was back in the States and just four days later returned to the Susquehanna basketball team. Talk about a culture shock.
"The transition from only playing a few times a month in Spain to every single day back here was a big wake up call," Sellinger said. "I got in shape in a week, though, and was on the court starting again."
While he admits the ice bath became his "best friend" for a while upon his return, statistics show he regained his on-court dominance quickly. He finished the season averaging 8.7 points and a team-leading 6.1 rebounds per game. He started 14 of the 15 games in which he played and logged more than 23 minutes per appearance.
Those numbers, combined with those from his first two seasons, afforded him the opportunity to return to Europe in the summer of 2013, this time for the sole purpose of playing basketball in Italy for an American team.
Sellinger played with team AIST and traveled to various parts of Italy to compete against Italian teams ranging from U-17 teams to national teams composed of professional basketball players.
"It was an amazing experience to be able to go and play overseas and represent the USA and Susquehanna in a sport I love," Sellinger wrote in a blog for GoSusqu.com. "I got to meet new people and make new friends, all in just 10 days."
There were more benefits than just exploring a different country and meeting new people, however. Sellinger honed his basketball skills which were reflected in this year's on-court productivity. He averaged a double-double over the course of his senior campaign, reached the 1,000-point and 700-rebound benchmarks and earned First-Team All-Landmark Conference honors.
However, perhaps the biggest thing he took away from all his travels abroad –both to Spain and Italy – was a simple phrase: No pasa nada.
"It means no worries," Sellinger explained. "They use that every day over there. They can be two hours late to a dinner and it is just 'no pasa nada.' This has made my life a lot easier to live. No pasa nada."